As we’ve prepared to welcome our baby into our home (any day now, really!), I’ve become more concerned with ways to effectively, safely, and inexpensively keep the house clean. There are tons of natural, organic, eco-friendly products out there that certainly work well, but they don’t usually fit into the “inexpensive” category.

A while back I got hooked on a certain sponge I found with the natural cleaning products that was basically your typical sponge but also had a sturdy hemp covering sewn over it. They are really effective and durable, but also $4.99 a pop. For a dish sponge that only lasts a month or 6 weeks, that seems like a lot. So instead of shelling out for my favorite sponge, I decided to re-create it using regular cellulose sponges from the grocery store and some burlap scraps I had from an old project. At $3.99 for 4 (larger) sponges, and about 1/2 yard of burlap that runs $2/yard at the fabric store, not only was this a lot cheaper (1/4 of the price per sponge), the size is more comfortable to use and I can make 4 at a time to have on hand so I don’t have to make a trip to the store to replace a nasty sponge before I do the next load of dishes.

DIY Burlap Sponges

The old sponge that inspired the project:

You’ll need:

4 Cello (or any brand you prefer) sponges
About 1/2 yard of burlap (you can find burlap at nearly any fabric store, or even better re-purpose some from a potato bag or a large bag of rice)
Basic sewing machine

Cut your burlap into 8 rectangles, using the sponges as a guide. I started with about 1.5″ of excess on all 4 sides of the sponge and trimmed them slightly after sewing.

Center your sponge between two pieces of burlap, and use quilting pins to secure on all 4 sides. Run each side through your sewing machine as close to the sponge as you can. I back-stitched over each line of stitching, and then stitched over that again (a total of 3 lines of stitches per side) for added sturdiness.

Once you’re done sewing, trim off as much excess as you’d like, but I’d recommend leaving 3/4″-1″ or so on all 4 sides because it comes in handy when you’re washing a stubborn pan.

Ta-da! Basic sponges have been upgraded to become more effective and longer-lasting, plus no more hideous fluorescent colors.

Another safe and non-toxic way to keep things clean around the house is by making your own cleaning spray. A lot of people in various homesteading and DIY-minded communities have been recommending this for a long time, but I just ran out of my last bottle of Seventh Generation all-purpose cleaner, and instead of buying another one for $5+, I decided to finally make my own.

I used a very simple formula based on lots of recommendations (most recently from Kate Payne’s The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking) that requires only 2 or 3 ingredients – water, vinegar, and essential oil.

DIY Household Cleaner

You can use this on nearly anything – counter tops, sinks, floors, tile, you name it.

You’ll need:

One part distilled white vinegar
One part water
5-10 drops essential oil (I like orange or lavender) – optional
Clean, empty spray bottle

Fill your spray bottle halfway with water, the other half with vinegar, and add 5-10 drops of essential oil if you’d like. Shake, and that’s it!

I bought a gallon (128oz) of distilled white vinegar for $3.99, and I had the oil on hand, so the total cost to fill my 20oz spray bottle was about $.31. A whole lot cheaper than the old stuff, and totally safe to use around pets and baby.